I don’t care how rich Rupert Murdoch is. I don’t care how right he’s been about things in the past. I don’t care that he’s the head of one of the biggest news organisations in the world. The simple fact of the matter is, that when it comes to an old media approach to the era of new media, he’s just plain wrong. He doesn’t get it. Thankfully though, other people at News Corp properties don’t either. Take this column, for instance.
First, as the head of a company that takes in excess of $800million every year from Australian taxpayers, his claim that the ABC’s online news content “will certainly be free” is as laughable as it is disingenuous.
You’re kidding aren’t you? The ABC received from the federal government, for the 2007/8 financial year, a little over $830million. This is less than 1% of just the personal income tax collected (0.66% to be exact) and roughly equals $75 per taxpayer (this is without even considering the other forms of taxation and income that the government collects). Let’s not also forget that the newsroom isn’t the only thing that the ABC does. The entertainment and education programs they produce across television, radio and online take up chunks of this budget, so in reality you’re looking a figure that is much less than what the maths would suggest. This is without mentioning that even if the ABC didn’t exist, I’m pretty sure that I would still be paying that money as part of my annual tax, so really, in a practical sense, it is free. In either case, I’m sure Mr Murdoch would charge a lot more for access to his content than the ABC does for theirs.
He then railed against Rupert Murdoch’s “demands” that people start paying for content, presumably hoping his audience would overlook the fact that it is the ABC that gives people no choice whether to pay or not.
To top it off, he inferred that News’s success has been built on a lack of competition and choice. This is a bizarre comment, given some of News’s greatest successes — Sky in Britain and the Fox Network in the US, to name but two - have come in the face of the toughest competition around: in these examples, the BBC, ITV, ABC, NBC and CBS.
Now, here’s an interesting thing: none of the competition mentioned operates (or did at the time) a 24 hour news channel. Both Sky and Fox were born off the back of CNN. So you’re arguing the point that a 24 news channel is a greater success at spreading news than broadcasters that only have limited news coverage during their programming? Well, there’s a shock.
Shall I also mention that both Sky and Fox are generally considered to be the lowest common denominator source of news compared to the likes of CNN and the BBC. Sky specialises in tabloid journalism while Fox is clearly the most biased news organisation that exists in the world today. Just because you specialise in collecting those viewers that are easily manipulated, it doesn’t make you the best.
Guaranteed his annual $800m-plus taxpayer income, he can operate with little concern to what his audience actually wants. He takes the money and decides what to give back, which more often than not is targeted to a very narrow section of society.
Oh please, don’t make me throw up. With programming ranging from Foreign Correspondent to Play School to Gardening Australia to The Gruen Transfer, The Chaser, Spicks and Specks and the entire Triple J network, I’d hardly say they were targeting a “narrow” audience. It’s certainly a lot better than the content offered up by the FTA broadcasters – which is mainly shit, imported shit, repeated shit and ‘vote for your favourite’ shit.
Meanwhile, commercial operators such as News live or die by the value of their content. Unlike the ABC’s content, which Australians have to pay for whether they want it or not, people can choose whether or not to purchase our content.
Firstly, you seem to be constantly trying to make the point about cost. Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?
Secondly, in this day and age content has now value. The raw information regarding a news story is utterly worthless. It’s what you do with it and how you present and deliver it to your readers that’s the part you can derive value from.
Charging for a product, even when there is a free alternative, is not a radical or outrageous proposition. If your content has real value, and you deliver it in the time, place and manner people want, then it is not unreasonable to ask them to pay for it. From the research undertaken by News and other organisations across the world, there is every indication that the general public understands and agrees with this. (Emphasis mine)
Wrong again. It’s not the content, but the “time, place and manner” that’s worth the money.
Quality journalism comes at a price.
Wrong. Quality content delivery comes at a price.
Journalism is not a commodity, as Mark thinks it is. He says it’s just about news, but journalism is so much more. It is analysis, judgment and comment. Its value must be recognised. I wonder how the ABC’s numerous fine journalists feel when they hear their boss saying their work only warrants being given away free?
Journalism is different to analysis, judgement and (most definitely) comment. Journalism is reporting the facts and that, clearly these days, is a commodity. Anyone can be a journalist. Being able to parse the mountains of information that an event generates (your judgement part) and deliver the the quality pieces with a high level of analysis is what’s going to make you money. This is what Rupert, and apparently you, doesn’t get.
Finally, I bet they feel pretty good. Probably only because they don’t work for the same biased, largely disrespected company that you do.